Augsburg Fortress

Copyright & Permissions

What Churches Need to Know about Copyright

Copyright protects all creative work for a period of time, regardless of where it’s used: even churches, schools, and individuals need to obtain permission before they copy, transcribe, print, project, livestream, or podcast copyrighted content.

How do you know if something is under copyright? Check in the book, site, or source where you find the content. The copyright information might be right on the page where the content is, or it could be in the front or back of the book or source. It is your responsibility to seek this out. With textual content from a published book or resource the information about author and publisher is usually straightforward. With music, and especially with hymns, it is important to check all the different elements: there might be separate rights holders for the words, tune, arrangement, and possibly a translation. Each copyright on a piece needs to be cleared if you want to use that specific element. This process is known as getting permission for or licensing the content.

Copyright Helps for Worship

Churches need to obtain permission to reproduce copyrighted content in their weekly bulletin as well as for projection or broadcast. There are two ways to obtain the permission: subscribe to a copyright license that covers that material, or obtain permission directly from the copyright administrator for that material.

When identifying what needs to be licensed, it is important to consider first how the content will be used. Are the words or music going to printed in a bulletin or projected on a screen in the worship space, or will they be podcast/streamed, or both? Remember that all copyrighted material that is shared within a podcast/streamed service needs to have permission obtained for use online. If only the words are reproduced in a bulletin/projection, then the rights for the words need to be licensed (and the translation, if relevant). But because the content when podcast/streamed is instead heard, and sometimes the words and musical arrangement are also shown, rights might need to be cleared for those elements too—text (plus translation if applicable), tune, and arrangement.

Augsburg Fortress offers two different licenses that cover our liturgies. The first of these is specific to the liturgical texts and liturgical music in the Evangelical Lutheran Worship family, including All Creation Sings. The second is a complete Augsburg Fortress Liturgies License, which covers all liturgical texts and liturgical music published by, or whose rights are administered by, Augsburg Fortress. The Augsburg Fortress Liturgies License is included with a subscription to You need one of these licenses to reproduce, project, livestream, or podcast the applicable content.

When it comes to licensing for hymns and other forms of music, you must consider that many other publishers and rights holders besides Augsburg Fortress are represented in our hymnals and worship resources. Churches are encouraged to consider third-party licenses that cover an assortment of copyright owners under a single license. The two major licensing programs offered are One License and CCLI. Augsburg Fortress hymns are covered under One License. To reprint or project hymns in your worship space, or to livestream/podcast music (hymns, choral, vocal solo, organ, piano, handbells, etc.) that is not covered by the Augsburg Fortress Liturgies License or the Evangelical Lutheran Worship Liturgies License, your most comprehensive option is licensing from One License, which offers a reprint license and several podcast/streaming license options.

Augsburg Fortress does offer a limited reprint license covering hymns, which is currently available on request, but that license is limited to those hymns under copyright to or administered by Augsburg Fortress. This Augsburg Fortress Hymns License does not cover any hymns that are not copyrighted by Augsburg Fortress. This license covers print and projection only and does not cover use of Augsburg Fortress hymns in podcast/streamed services. For podcast/streaming of hymns and performance music, we recommend One License.

It is important to note that any copyright license has specific limits. The limits of liturgy or worship music licenses are that the use of the material be for local, one-time, not-for-profit use in a worship context. The license granted by these licenses is also site-specific—in other words, for use at your church only. Some rights holders for pieces published in Augsburg Fortress resources do not participate in any of the licenses listed on this page. Churches interested in obtaining licensing from any of the licensors mentioned should contact those licensors directly to be sure of all the terms and conditions for that specific license. The administrator of any such work sets the fees and conditions around their permission for their content.

If you don’t have a copyright license, or the one you have doesn’t cover the material in question, you’ll have to contact the rights owner directly for permission.

We are always happy to answer questions. Specific questions regarding reproducing material under copyright to, or administered by, Augsburg Fortress can be sent via email to Please include a phone number in your email. Our copyright phone number is 612-330-3530.

Download a printable PDF of this information to share with others.